Monday, April 16, 2012

Seclusion Near a Forest

Na samotě u lesa; comedy, Czech Republic, 1976; D: Jiří Menzel, S: Zdeněk Svěrák, Daniela Kolářová, Josef Kemr, Marie Hradilková

Fed up with the daily hassle in the urban Prague, Oldrich Lavička, his wife and their children Zuzana and Petr decide to buy a summerhouse in a rural place, for the weekends. They reach an agreement with the 70-year old owner of the house, Komárek, to rent the place while he is suppose to move away and live with his son. The Lavička family encounters the rural life: a goat eats their cakes, villagers all wonder how can they sleep for so long while they encounter a flea plague. In the end, however, Komárek decides to stay in the house.

Jiri Menzel's 6th feature length film is another good Czech comedy, "Seclusion Near a Forest", that gives an ironic commentary about the shift between the rural and urban life. Working with fine actors, surrounded by rural landscapes, Menzel crafted another comical contribution to his opus, and it seems he did not have any ambitions in rising the movie above anything more than it is, a simple, relaxed and fun story. The screenplay by Ladislav Smoljak and actor Sverak achieves the most of its humor thanks to observations and shrill dialogues (the old Komarek and Hruška exchange these lines while in a company at a table: "I always managed to beat you up!" - "Today you wouldn't." - "But in the past, I always managed to beat you up, you cannot deny that." - "Today you wouldn't anymore!" - "That's it, hands up!"; father, who cannot wait anymore until Komarek moves out of the prestigious house, tries to use "euphemism" to cover that feeling while talking with his daughter who is writing about it for school: "Mr. Komarek is good, but he is bothering us..." - "You cannot write that." - "All right, then I will write that Mr. Komarek is good because he will leave soon." - "You cannot write that either. How can you write that he is good because he will leave soon? Just write that he is good. That is true." - "But he is also bothering us, that is also true."), yet one must also point out the refreshingly relaxed tone of the storyline, besides which not much was needed to charm the viewers anyway.



J Luis Rivera said...

Hi! I enjoy reading your reviews of Czech cinema. Do you have any particular top 10 Czech films to recommend?

So far I've only watched "Krakatit", "Valerie and her week of wonders" and "Morgiana". And I would like to see more.

Marin Mandir said...

I have seen some fair share of Czech cinema, but unfortunately still too small of a sample to make an expert estimate of top 10 Czech films. But from what I have seen so far, my favorite would be Jiri Menzel's "Closely Watched Trains" and "My Sweet Little Village", Jan Sverak's "Kolya", Vera Chytilova's abstract "Sedmikrasky" ("Daisies") and "Hra o jablko" ("The Apple Game").

Martin Mucha said...

@J Luis Rivera: it's hard to recommend. Our nowadays films sucks (mostly), but once we had really interesting original movies.

Talking about nice, clever dialogues I had to recommend movies by Oldrich Lipsky, with extra mention of experimental "Happy End", which, long before B.Button or Memento, runs fully backwards, shifting back after EACH sentence WITH (hilarious) meaning in both directions. It's probably not his best movie, but this is really amazing. I hope you'll be able to find reasonable translation. By Lipsky, if you like his absurd humor, you can try "Tajemství hradu v karpatech" "adéla ještě nevečeřela" or "Lemonade Joe", it's really nice parodys.

From top of my head you should also not overlook "Spalovač mrtvol", "Rozmarné léto", "sweet little village", "Kulový blesk", "Waiter, Scarper!"